Category Archives: Influence

A Time for Striving To Understand Our Neighbor

 

From my point of view, it has always been essential to understand the thinking of our neighbor’s. I am not saying that it is a common practice or that I am good at it.  And I do believe that to appreciate how others feel about being ‘included’ or ‘not so included’ in the community is a big part of what it takes to make a community. To be aware of their view of the future and possibility that may lie ahead for them, their family or their friends.

Now, in February of 2017, it is becoming more and more clear to many of us that we don’t have access to our ‘neighbors’ thinking other than through parody or even mockery.

I have been looking for accessible voices of those that might be able to help me understand how it is that so many of my American ‘neighbors’ choose to support Donald Trump.

We benefit from living in East Lansing: and one of the many benefits is that each February, at MSU, there is the Slavery to Freedom lecture series open to the entire community.  It is a tremendous resource! Last week’s speaker was Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post opinion writer, MSNBC contributor, and he made several excellent points provoking thought and discussion.  The comment that stuck with me is when he challenged us all to seek out voices other than the voices that we agree with in an attempt to learn more, understand more and appreciate more.

Jonathan has a podcast, Cape Up and as I was listening to some of his interviews, I came across this recent one.   Arthur Brooks explains on January 24th how dignity links Trump to Obama.  I found it fascinating and thought provoking.  I started to think a little deeper than I had been about how others chose to vote for Trump.

Go to iTunes, or whatever you get your podcasts and search for Cape Up and then listen to Jonathan’s conversation with Arthur Brooks from January 24, 2017.

To anybody who wants to explore a thoughtful new podcast, I recommend Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart.

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Read These Books by John Lewis- they are a valuable source of the American experience

 

I recommend that everyone, all moms and dads, gramma’s and grampas, aunt and uncle and caring neighbors go to a library and borrow these three books.  Or go to a bookstore and buy them.

Then read them and talk about them with others.  John Lewis was one of many individuals that intentionally put his life into to the civil rights movement with a deep commitment and clear awareness of the personal cost that may be paid for marching into the challenges of segregation and injustice.

Once you have read, thought and talked about these books – I suggest you reach out to a young person.  Someone in their twenties, teens or younger and ask them to read your copies and to talk with you about the stories. With the younger children, you might share these with – you may want to read them aloud as you sit side by side with your daughter, grandson, niece or neighbor.

The conversation that comes from this sharing could open new learning for all and new opportunities for growing close.  These heartfelt discussions might lead to a thirst for more learning about this and related topics and for more important sharing between the two (it could be more) of you.

Our American journey has not been a straight line.  It has not been without pain.  The journey continues as WE strive to form more perfect unions amongst and between all.

Enjoy these three important books!!!!!

Note: the picture of the three people in this post is of Nate Powell, the illustrator of the books, John Lewis, the author of the books and Andrew Aydin a co-author of the books.

Being an Other-fucused Person Can Contribute Greatly to the Common Good!

Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Results by Robert E. Quinn (2000)

I like this book. I recommend it to people that are thinking about how a family, group, organization or big system (like a government) moves forward, backward or becomes stagnant. He makes the point that what seem unchangeable might, in fact, be changeable. Also like the book because it sets out the kind of tasks and paths that reasonable normal people might benefit from following to move a family, group, organization or big system toward the common good.

 

This book is ambitious and, as a result, paints a clear broad picture of what it takes to contribute to and impact groups or large systems. Complexity is embraced by the author and, therefore, his change method is not the norm. He explains and makes sense of the challenge to focus on the common good (What Quinn also called the ‘journey of collective fulfillment’) for organizations and groups of people.

 

Quinn makes the point that he feels that ordinary people can become profoundly affected as change agents.

 

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The One and Only Ivan

“At its heart, of course, an animal fantasy is as much about humans as it is about animals – about things we most fear and things we most love, about pain and sadness, but also about redemption and hope.”

“In Ivan’s story – both real and fictional – there is hope.”

“Children know all about sadness.  We can’ tide it from them.  We can only teach them.  We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitability and to harness their imaginations in the search for joy and wonder.”

“Nothing, nothing in the world, can do that better than a book.”

Katherine Applegate shared these words as she accepted the Newberry Medal in 2013.

My words, related to The One and Only Ivan, are: Read it!  Read it to kids of all ages, much like you have read Charlotte’s Web to children of all ages. Read it for yourself, too.   Give this book as a gift to readers, beginning readers and future readers.  This is a book for families to enjoy together – to read and reread The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

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Prescription for These Times: A Thousand Acts of Civility

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As a 67 year old guy, who has been in engaged public service for decades, I believe that much can be accomplished when ‘we’ choose to work ‘across differences’ in service to the common good. I have been part of such efforts. I have seen things occur when people have focused on the common good. It can happen!

And today, here in America, it seems that ‘commonality’ is not prized. From my perspective today’s politics are ripe with discord, dysfunction and degradation of others. I agree with Parker J. Palmer when he writes that the politics of today seem to be “intent on dividing us so deeply that there will be no more ‘we’ in ‘We the People’ — and thus no way for us to reach even a rough consensus on the common good to which we can hold our leaders accountable.” He sees hope if we can breathe in new life to ‘We the People’.

I choose to be hopeful. I believe that hope is bigger than fear, discouragement and weariness put together. I also believe that action is better than inaction. This is not a time to let frustration immobilize us – We the People! The ‘us’ I refer to is everyone. People who see things differently are willing to struggle toward a better future together.

Palmer has come to the conclusion that: “Though much of our political discourse is toxic, ‘politics’ is not a dirty word. It’s the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day.   Yes, that’s a vision of politics that will never be fully achieved. But every time someone abandons that vision and turns to cynicism, democracy suffers one more wound in the death of a thousand cuts.   Just as democracy can die a death of a thousand cuts, it can be given new life by a thousand acts of civility.”

Take a minute to read his entire essay, Breathing New Life into “We the People” and begin your ‘thousand acts of civility’. Begin to re-frame the situations you encounter into opportunities. Opportunities build to relationships were we ‘turn from ire to inquiry’ and all benefit from creative, respectful engagement.

 

 

 

Bridging Gaps to the Future

Each of us matters in moving forward with intentionality

We all are people and people can grow, change and evolve

Progress starts with understanding the present

“What is . . . is”

And by having a clear vision of a preferred future . . . progress has direction

Then bridging the gaps between “what is” and “what might be” becomes the mission

The work

Movement towards a preferred future will likely require:

innovation

adaptation

collaboration

welcoming the unknown

motivation to learn

deep reflection

honest evaluation

Progress comes from embracing opportunity in the middle of uncertainty

We all must be willing to use our current knowledge and dispositions as fertile ground to grow more

more knowledge, and

more willingness and ability for:

innovation

adaptation

collaboration

welcoming the unknown

being sincerely motivated to learn

deep reflection

honest evaluation

    Jerry Jennings  March 3, 2015

Orange . . . Read the Book Too!

“The United States has the biggest prison population in the world – we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners, though we’re only 5% of the world’s population. This reliance’s on prisons is recent: in 1980 we had some 500,000 Americans in prison; by 2010 we have more than 2,300,000 American people locked up. Yes, that’s close to 2 ½ million Americans now!”
Piper Kerman has written a great memoir of for 13 months in the Federal prison system. Many people know about her work because they’ve seen the TV show which was created as a result of this memoir. Yes, Piper Kerman wrote Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.
I like the TV show AND the book. When I write “like” – it is the kind of appreciation that comes when I am made to think deeply about information and when I find myself caring about something which, previously I hadn’t given much thought to.  I also love good stories with characters that are authentic. Where people grow and evolve.  Where people are complex. All of that and more is happening in the book and the TV series.

If you are interested in learning more about our current American prison system – this book is a place to start. It is the story of one of those many million Americans who have spent or are spending time in prison. It is a story that let us into a world we don’t necessarily know much about. Yet, the world of prison life is huge in America. So, yes – this book and TV series gets us thinking about our country and how we operate.
Kerman sees clearly that “America has invested heavily in prisons, while the public institutions that actually prevent crime and strengthen communities – schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, community centers – go without.”  I see this too and  would add to the list the need for greater resources in responding compassionately and productively to homelessness and community and mental health across the country.

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Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman 2010, 2011 is published by Random House and can be bought or checked out of libraries everywhere. The TV show is a NETFLIX original series (Orange is the New Black) is based on the work of Piper Kerman and season three is to begin in the summer of 2015. That gives you lots of time to read the book and catch up on season 1 and 2.
The complexity of the American prison system is important for all of us to think about.  Kerman asserts that we “Over incarceration in America destabilizes families and communities, making life outside the mainstream more likely by limiting opportunities for change. We have a racially biased justice system that over punishes, fails to rehabilitate, and doesn’t make us safer.”

The quotes above can be found on pages 303, 299 and 303 of the paperback of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman